Steve Maharey resigns from Pharmac, ACC roles

Steve Maharey.
Steve Maharey. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Steve Maharey, a former Labour minister, has resigned as Chair of Pharmac and ACC.

In separate statements on Friday afternoon, Health Minister Dr Shane Reti and ACC Minister Matt Doocey confirmed they had accepted Maharey's resignation on Thursday.

Maharey was found to have broken political impartiality rules earlier this year after criticising National in a number of newspaper columns. He offered his resignation at the time, but it was said that his breach of the public service code of conduct was at the lower end of the spectrum and he kept his role.  

In his statement, Dr Reti said Maharey had tendered his resignation to the Government through a letter to associate Health Minister David Seymour.

"I want to acknowledge Steve Maharey’s service to Pharmac since joining the board in 2018. The Government will appoint a new permanent chair in due course. Dr Peter Bramley, currently the deputy chair, will act as chair until that point."

Doocey said he also wanted to acknowledge Maharey's service to ACC since joining the board in 2021.

"The Government will appoint a new permanent chair in due course. Dr Tracey Batten, currently the deputy chair, will act as chair until that point."

Maharey's columns criticising the National Party came to attention earlier this year following the sacking of then-Te Whatu Ora Rob Campbell, who attacked the National Party on social media. 

Campbell's situation led to renewed scrutiny on the comments of public service board members. Ruth Dyson, another former Labour minister, also came underfire for remarks she made on Twitter.

Maharey tendered his resignation at the time, but the Public Service Commission didn't believe his actions justified his removal. Then-Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said Maharey's conduct differed to Campbells, as Maharey proactively acknowledged his error and said he would stop writing columns.

On Tuesday, NZ On Air board member Andrew Shaw resigned after attacking Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters online. After questions from Newshub about the appropriateness of his comments, Shaw deleted the post, apologised and offered up his resignation.

Media and Communications Minister Melissa Lee told Newshub at the time that she expected all public servants to understand the need for political impartiality.

"Just because, a Labour government has actually appointed the board members does not mean that when there's a National Government, you know, all of them can't work at the board. It's just that they have to remember their responsibility to the Crown and the people of New Zealand, and work hard to basically do their jobs."

Individuals on the boards of Crown Entities are subject to a code of conduct issued by the Public Service Commissioner. This includes a section on political impartiality.

"We act in a politically impartial manner," it says.     

"Irrespective of our political interests, we conduct ourselves in a way that enables us to act effectively under current and future Governments. We do not make political statements or engage in political activity in relation to the functions of the Crown entity.    

"When acting in our private capacity, we avoid any political activity that could jeopardise our ability to perform our role or which could erode the public's trust in the entity. We discuss with the Chair any proposal to make political comment or to undertake any significant political activity."